Arriving at my parents’ house is always an adventure. Usually, only one person comes to retrieve me, and now Kevin, from the airport; no one else can tear themselves away from the fun going on back at the house. Once we arrive at the house, we always enter through the garage, which delivers you directly into my family’s kitchen—the undeniable hub of the house. It’s a little like opening the door of a dollhouse—cracking one hinge provides a glimpse into all the action going on inside, except the scene is real, the house and its occupants full-sized.
These days, you can find my grandpa on an overstuffed couch to the left, his bad foot propped up on the coffee table. He’ll clap his hands on his knees and exclaim “Hiya guys!” before hoisting himself up with the help of his walking stick, spreading his giant arms for a hug. My grandma is likely at the kitchen table, the playing cards she travels with arranged before her in a game of solitaire. She too jumps to her feet, clapping her hands and perhaps even hooting and hollering a little bit. The only one who beats these two to the welcome is my parents’ dog Bailey, tail whipping back and forth, a toy clenched in her jaw. She gets a good scratch behind the ears before we move on to the rest of the family.
My mom, if she wasn’t our airport chauffeur is undoubtedly in the kitchen itself, (wo)maning an array of pots and pans on the range, each emitting a welcoming scent. She’ll wait for everyone else to get their hugs in, before swooping in for a hug that lasts a second longer and squeezes a little tighter than everyone else’s. My stepdad might be on the back deck, which stretches out from the kitchen, smoking his pipe or tending to the grill or the just generally surveying the scene. He too comes in for a hug, brimming with some story or another with which he can’t wait to regale us. Ali has usually folded herself into an impossible position on an armchair, her laptop balancing on the arm. She look up from over the top of the screen and throw a “Hey” our way. Seeing as though we’ve likely been exchanging emails, texts, and messages all day, a hug doesn’t really seem necessary.
Our bags will sit by the door as we immediately launch into chatter and the until-then-bare counter mysteriously fills up with an assortment of snacks. Anchoring the spread, always, is bowl of rippled potato chips (Old Dutch) and a small tub of an old family favorite—Top the Tater dip, a creamy, chive flecked dip that is the most perfect accompaniment to a rippled chip that you will ever find. The counter usually boasts a few other more sophisticated, elaborate, homemade dishes, but it’s the Top the Tater we can’t resist.
Before Kevin warmed to this rather overwhelming homecoming scene, he warmed to that dip. We’ve all loved it for years, but Kevin quickly became its biggest champion. My mom started buying extra containers of the stuff in preparation for our visits, pressing at least one foil-wrapped container into our hands before we head back for Chicago. You see, we’ve never seen the dip outside of Minnesota-a fact that has deeply troubled Kevin.
Kevin’s resting much easier these days because I’ve learned to make the dip at home, a fact that elicited deep admiration from my family when we were in Minnesota last weekend. It couldn’t be easier, really, and I can’t for the life of my figure out what took me so long to give it a go. Perhaps I was hesitant to divorce the dip from the homecoming scene, from my parents’ house, from Minnesota. Now that we have the recipe at the ready, I’m happy to be able to conjure up these memories at a moment’s notice.
Creamy Chive Dip
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup chopped chives
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice (or more, to taste)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a food processer until smooth. Serve immediately, with chips or raw vegetables, or chill.